Forest Service

EcoFlight

The Pitkin County Commissioners are unhappy with what they’ve seen so far in a BLM plan for existing oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide. They’re crafting a letter to the agency. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Pitkin County gets an early look at the BLM’s preliminary draft Environmental Impact Statement because it’s a cooperating agency. A public version will be released in November. It’ll decide what to do with more than two dozen undeveloped oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide, southwest of Carbondale. Pitkin County wants the leases canceled.

Facebook/Rachel Richards

In June the Pitkin County Commissioners sent a resolution to Colorado’s congressional delegation, decrying a national effort to transfer federal lands to state ownership. Advocates say it would improve access, environmental health and productivity on land managed by the Forest Service and BLM. Commissioner Rachel Richards told Marci Krivonen the effort would spell trouble for Pitkin County.

Rachel Richards is a Pitkin County Commissioner. She spoke with Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen. In future weeks, we’ll air the other side of the argument.

Marci Krivonen

Pitkin County is fighting a national effort to transfer federal public lands to states. The county plans to send a resolution to congressional representatives in Washington DC. 

One group advocating for state control of federal public lands is the American Lands Council. It argues state control would improve access, environmental health and productivity on land managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Marci Krivonen

With deep cuts from Washington in recent years, the White River National Forest is looking to free labor. Volunteers stationed at busy spots like the Maroon Bells scenic area, are becoming increasingly essential to the agency. And with summer arriving, officials are recruiting. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

In ten years the annual operating budget for the White River National Forest has been slashed by $2 million and the agency has reduced employees. Scott Fitzwilliams is Forest Supervisor.

Marci Krivonen

Pitkin County elected leaders are sending a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation, urging them to support an effort that would preserve the Thompson Divide. One county staffer calls it “the most promising proposal to date.”

Kathleen Tadvick/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The BLM says a new federal plan for helping a bird in Garfield County is necessary because it aims to protect habitat. The agency, and the Forest Service, announced the new approach last week. The number of greater sage grouse is declining and the idea is to keep the bird off the endangered species list. Marci Krivonen spoke with David Boyd, a public affairs specialist for the BLM in northwest Colorado.

David Boyd works out of the BLM office in Silt. After a review and protest period, the plan will go into effect, probably sometime in July.

Marci Krivonen

The White River National Forest’s newest visitors center officially opens Tuesday. The Forest Service moved the center from Aspen to Highlands to make visits more convenient for the public, and to save money. 

On Friday visitor information specialist Mateo Sandete was putting finishing touches on interpretive signs. Visitors trickled in over Memorial Day weekend for a soft opening. Sandete says the new location is advantageous given the nearby Maroon Bells.

fs.usda.gov

The Garfield County Commissioners are questioning the science behind a handful of reports about the greater sage grouse. The Bureau of Land Management is using the data in a document that will guide management of the bird’s habitat in northwestern Colorado. 

White River National Forest

The head of the White River National Forest says the agency is doing more with less as it continues to battle budget cuts from Washington D.C. 

Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told elected officials, conservation groups and business leaders Friday that the White River is grappling with tight funding. During a “state of the forest” address he said the budget is almost half of what it was five years ago, and staffing levels are down.

He says nearly all of the agency’s budget is being used to fund fixed costs, like salaries and rents, leaving little for side projects.

High Country News

The changes the White River National Forest is considering to minimize crowds in wilderness areas have been successful in other forests. Last week, Forest Service officials began an informal outreach effort around how to bring back solitude to busy trails and backcountry camping. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, their ideas have been tried in other wilderness areas.

Aspen Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer is delivering a presentation to a packed house in Aspen. She’s working to educate people about problems in the forest and solicit feedback.

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